You're the reason, the air I'm breathing, so don't go leaving,
Cause loving you is the only think that ever really touched my soul
I'm protective, of my blessings
Glad I kept it, I never really thought about the future til I saw my life
Finding it's purpose, so very worth it
And now I know that love is really worth it
And that's why some people fight for love
They stick with it, just can't quit it
Some people hide from love, they run from it, cause they don't want it
When you got a love and it's good like it should be
Makes you never wanna give it up
Cause you know that some people fight for love
And I believe it's true cause I'd do the same for you
Fight For Love - Eliott Yamin
There were six hesitation marks in her signature; four in her first name and two in her last. She was convinced that there was some irony involved in this situation and struggled to identify it. The fact that her signature on the divorce papers only had two hesitation marks, right at the end when she'd looked up at Draco for assurance, had to mean something.
Well, Hermione thought as she set down the quill, that situation had been a lot different.
For starters, there had been little time to let the truth sink in. The instant Draco lifted his quill after signing the final parchment, everything, including the envelope vanished before their eyes. And without the papers right there, it had been easier to forget what they had done. However, the quiet task of taking off each other's rings had done an excellent job to remind her.
Her head instinctively turned and—there they were, still sitting on the dresser, waiting for them to decide their fate. Draco had been inclined to dispose of them immediately, but Hermione persuaded him to wait until morning to decide.
But after a full night's worth of sleep, the first in nearly a month, she was inclined to let him.
She'd never been attached to her wedding ring and was almost positive he felt the same.
After all, they'd hardly worn them.
Hermione's eyes returned to the signed letter in front of her. It would've been easy if this too had instantly vanished like the divorce documents, but it hadn't. Instead, it stared at her, mocked her, and tempted her to tear it to shreds and toss it in the rubbish bin like she had done to the first nine drafts. She didn't have to do this. Soon enough, it would all be out and it really didn't matter what she d—Hermione shook her head.
She needed to do this.
Of course Draco hadn't asked her to; it wasn't in his nature to ask something like that of her. Yet … Hermione had the strangest urge to show him just how committed she was to making their relationship work this time around. She wanted to prove to Draco that she was willing to get her priorities in order. Not to mention, Hermione felt the need to show him that he wasn't the only one who could make sacrifices.
And this, she felt, was the biggest of all.
She re-read the letter.
They could've discovered something fascinating, and with this parchment, her years of hard work, research, long hours, and sacrifice would all be in vain.
Hermione sighed and bit on the back of her forefinger, something she did only when she was pensive … and deeply troubled. She found herself thinking, reflecting, and obsessing over everything, but before she could drive herself crazy with doubt and worry, a deep groan came from the bed. Hermione watched as Draco felt around for her, and almost smiled when, after realising she was no longer there, he sat up and scratched his head. The dishevelled Draco yawned, rubbed his eyes, and looked over at her, "Morning."
He rubbed his eyes, "What time is it?"
"Early," she offered a weak smile, "Did I wake you?"
"No," he mumbled sleepily and checked the clock on his bedside, "It's five in the morning. Why are you even awake?"
"Partially out of habit, but also because I had some things I needed to do … for work."
Draco frowned thinly, but said nothing. He really didn't have to. The look on his face spoke his disappointment and hurt loud and clear … without changing much at all. And she really understood what they were up against.
They had to essentially start all over again, fresh, and that entailed much more than she had initially anticipated. She and Draco had been so detached from one another for so long that she knew that she had to reacquaint herself with him on more than a mental and physical level, but an emotional one, too. But that wasn't a problem. She knew that she was ready to listen and learn and reconnect with the Draco who fought hard to protect the tender parts of himself, whilst still letting her know they were there.
It was just—Hermione looked down at the letter.
"I'll be done in a minute," she muttered.
Several silent moments passed before he tightly asked, "What are you working on?"
She looked over at him, "My resignation letter."
There was a flicker of something in his eyes. It told her that he hadn't expected that. "Oh."
"Yeah," she sighed, looking down at the letter.
Why did she have to do this, again? Oh right, because if she didn't, they would be bound to repeat history. As far as she knew, they could repeat history regardless—Hermione shook her head. Priorities, right? Right. She didn't hear Draco get out of bed, but she felt it when he stood behind her chair and placed his hands on her shoulders.
"You don't have to do this," he told her.
"Actually," Hermione finally folded the letter and put it into the envelope before she could hesitate any longer, "I'm pretty certain that I do."
"Your work means a lot to you."
She wanted to selfishly take those words and use them as reason to rip up her resignation letter, but instead Hermione put her hand over his, "It does, really, but you were right. It's just a job. I love what I do, but there are more important things." And she repeated those words to herself over and over again as the emotions that the words conveyed built in intensity and clarity. Hermione's voice was a little raw when she added, "Besides, I could use a holiday for a few months. I can do some travelling, go back to Hogwarts for a visit, have some sessions with Ms Melonakos, actually attend one of Ginny's Quidditch matches, learn a new language, pick up a new hobby, visit my parents—maybe have dinner with yours. Perhaps we both can … together. We certainly have the financial means … and the time."
"To do all of that?"
"And more, if you want…."
"I can always take some time off," Draco replied after several moments of silence. "And then?"
Hermione tensed. She liked having plans. They kept her sane and grounded, but when she thought about their future, she couldn't get a clear image. It was strange, scary, and … a bit exciting. Draco moved his hands and she stood, still pensive. After pushing the chair back into the desk, Hermione picked up the letter and uttered something she never thought she would say:
"I'll … I'm not sure. I could always get another job. I always entertained the thought of running the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. I have a lot of good ideas about, well, everything. But I supposed I'll just have to figure it out when I get to that point."
The floor creaked as he moved. She figured that he was going away, probably to the bathroom, but she was wrong. Heat emanated from the body pressed against her. And for what felt like forever, Draco stood behind her silently, holding her lightly and looking at the letter in her hands.
Hermione was welcomed home to a ball purple light speeding towards her. She didn't even have time to reach for her wand before she was forced to drop to her knees. The hex missed her by a breath. She could hear it whizzing by her ear before it hit the wall with a loud crackle. Wand drawn, Hermione jumped back to her feet, disoriented but ready to fight.
But there was no one there.
"What in the—"
Ginny popped up from behind the sofa, wand drawn. Well, that was until she saw her standing there. Then, the redhead threw up her arms and yelled, "Hermione!"
She stared at her as if she'd gone completely bonkers. "What in the hell is going on! Why in the hell did you try to hex me!"
"I thought you were a reporter!"
"Why would I be a reporter?!"
"Because," she huffed, "they've been calling and trying to get in to get comments and information about the biggest news story all year."
"What in—" and it dawned on Hermione. "The divorce." She furrowed her brows, "That fast?"
"Apparently," Ginny grumbled as she pocketed her wand. "You could've warned someone, though. I spilled my Coco Rocks when the first reporter came through." Ginny spared a mournful glance at the overturned bowl on the couch. "And that was the last of the box, too," she grumbled bitterly.
"I'll buy you more."
Hermione shook her head and, without paying attention, took a step out of the Floo. Ginny yelled her name at the exact moment she stumbled over what turned out to be a stack of letters … and howlers, which sent them scattering in different directions. Ginny came from around the sofa and offered her a hand, which she took. However, she nearly stumbled again when she saw the state of their flat.
What. In. The. World.
It was a nightmare, but the culprit wasn't Ginny … there were letters everywhere! Hundreds—maybe thousands—of them. Ginny had taken to stacking the letters neatly in several tall piles against the wall next to the Floo; piles that were almost as tall as Hermione. And there were the piles that she'd knocked over after stepping out of the fireplace and—what was that noise? Her head whipped towards the kitchen where she saw about seventeen owls lounging, eating treats off their table.
"Seriously?!" Hermione looked at Ginny with wide eyes, "On the table?!"
"Well, where else? Some of them were very tired. Long trip, you know." One owl picked that moment to land on her shoulder. "This one is from Portugal. Had a nice little letter thanking you and Draco for doing your part in destroying the sanctity of marriage."
"How very nice," Hermione deadpanned.
"I know right, but never mind that. How she got here so soon, I have no clue." The owl hooted and flew into the kitchen. Ginny leaned closer and whispered, "Bad news though. I'm all out of owl treats. Been too busy burning Howlers to go to buy more."
Hermione blinked. "Burning Howlers?"
"Oh yes, loads of them. The exploding Howlers were what woke me up in the first place."
She felt bad. "I'm sorry all this—I thought we would've had at least a day before the news broke. I was, clearly, very wrong about that."
Ginny shrugged. "I was okay with that until the stupid reporters tried to break in through the Floo after they were unsuccessful at getting me to come to the door." She had the fiercest look on her face when she said, "I wasn't having any of that." Then, Ginny paused, "It felt good though. I haven't had to use that hex in ages." The grin the spread across her face was positively malicious. "I let the first reporter run around for a little bit before I reversed the spell. It was all good fun for me, so don't worry. Besides, the letter flow has slowed. We should probably take the opportunity to get rid of all these letters. I started to, but I got distracted."
"Have you opened any of them?"
"A few. I'm not sure what people are more riled about: the divorce, the fact that you were actually married to Draco Malfoy, or the fact that you dated—"
"Date," she corrected.
Ginny looked confused. "What?"
"I date Draco Malfoy."
"But—" she sputtered. "You got divorced! It's all over the papers!" The witch grabbed Hermione by the arm and dragged her to the window, and together they peeked out. In front of the building were at least fifty reporters, waiting. Luckily, they hadn't seen them in the window. "They're out there waiting to get a glimpse of the 'heartbroken Hermione Granger'! How—in the world did you manage to swallow your pride?"
Hermione gave her a little push, started a fire, and recounted the entire story while they cleaned. For every handful of letters they threw into the fire, Hermione read one. Most said she was better off without him or showed disappointment in them both for giving up. Some showed their outrage and disgust, but a few were actually marriage proposals. Hermione snorted at those. By the time she finished recounting last night's events, the fireplace was full of burning letter and their flat looked fairly normal, save for the overturned bowl of Coco Rocks and the owls in their kitchen. The first was easy to clean, but the second….
"Wait, so you're saying that you guys are divorced, but still together?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying."
"Wow!" Ginny stared at her in amazement. "I'm still shocked that you two managed to work it out."
"Not entirely," Hermione smiled softly, "but it's a start."
"What are you two going to do with the house?"
"Sell it. Harry told Draco that he could stay at Grimmauld Place until he finds a flat to live in."
"Oh," Ginny frowned, "I'd just gotten used to you staying here again."
"What? Oh! No. We decided that we had to go back to how we were when we first started dating … only different, more public. So, I'm still going to stay here, if you'll have me, of course."
"Of course! I—" something caught her attention. "Oh hell no!" Hermione watched as Ginny stormed into the kitchen, discovered that one of the owls had pooped on the floor, and cursed quite vehemently as she threw open the glass door. "Out! All of you! Oh, no you don't, owl! Get the hell out! No treats for any of you little buggers!"
Rather than stay and watch the amusing sight of the one-socked Ginny Weasley hopping up and down in an attempt to get the owls out of their flat, Hermione chuckled under her breath and went to her room.
She was in need of a shower.
With the envelope in hand, Hermione stood only feet in front of the lift and stared down the bland hallway at the black door. She sighed. This was avoidable. Really. And Hermione seriously believed herself to be a glutton for punishment. She could've sent the envelope via owl, but the chances of her owls being intercepted had risen dramatically in the last twenty-four hours. And she didn't want anything getting in the way of her boss getting the letter. Besides, this was something that needed to be done face-to-face.
And yet she hadn't taken another step forward in several minutes. Yes, she was delaying the inevitable and Hermione didn't care. It wasn't just about handing over her resignation; it was about what she knew was to come. The stares, the whispers, the rumours … there was a lot she could handle, but she hated being the centre of this kind of attention.
So, standing there in the silence seemed like the best thing to do at the moment.
But then the lift dinged and opened. Hermione turned her head and—stared at Blaise curiously.
"Do you ever work?"
He smirked, "Of course, but not today. Why are you here?"
"Getting my priorities in order." At that, he flashed a genuine Blaise smile that made her pensive frown slowly lift. "So, why are you here?"
"Thought you might need some moral support," he replied rather quickly. When Hermione quirked a brow, Blaise decided to go at it from a different angle, "Draco sent me." At that, she scoffed. Draco wasn't so blatantly thoughtful. It wasn't in his nature. "Okay, so maybe he intended to, but never got around to it?"
Hermione folded her arms across her chest and tilted her head to side, staring at him hard. "Blaise."
"All right. Potter sent me. Ginny Floo-called him about the reporters trying to break into your flat and he thought you might need a hand."
"That sounds more like it." She smiled, "Tell him I can handle this." Funny, those words came out more confidently than she felt at that moment, but he didn't need to know that. And then, a thought occurred to her. "There is something that you can actually do for me."
"Go buy some owl treats … oh, and some Coco Rocks for Ginny. A reporter made her spill the last bowl this morning. Needless to say, she's in a bit of a sour mood so duck when you enter through the Floo, okay?"
He blinked. "Duck?"
"She's in the habit of hexing people who come through."
Blaise looked amused rather than frightened. "Why not close it?"
"She said something about not negotiating with terrorists, so duck, okay?"
"I can do that."
Blaise pushed the button to go back to the main floor. The lift opened immediately and just before it closed, Hermione said, "Oh, and for the love of Merlin, ask her out already!" She didn't get a chance to see the look on his face, but knew it was absolutely priceless.
And for some reason, that little exchange with Blaise gave her all the encouragement she needed to head towards the black door. As expected, the moment she walked in, everything fell silent and everyone stopped what they were doing to stare. It was much worse when she opened the door to the research room.
Perhaps she shouldn't have sent Blaise away so soon.
The walk to her boss's office was long and damn near painful, but she made it. His secretary told her that he was just getting out of a meeting with the Minister and that she was more than welcome to wait. Hermione nodded, but just as she was about to turn, the witch asked, "Is it true? Were you really married to Draco Malfoy? And is it true that he cheated on you and you found solace with Harry Potter, threatening to break up his own marriage and tear apart his family?"
Hermione's eyes nearly bugged out of their sockets. "Where did you hear that rubbish from?"
"Rita Skeeter, of course. I just love the way she writes."
She grimaced. What was her obsession with matching her and Harry?! Hermione rolled her eyes and mumbled, "Should've left her in the jar."
"What was that?" the eager witch asked.
"Nothing … only that you really give credence to everything you read."
"So you weren't married to Draco Malfoy?"
"I was, but the rest of that is completely untrue."
Before the witch could ask anything else, the office door opened and out walked her partner—or, rather, her soon-to-be ex-partner. She thought about saying something to him, but he gave her a disappointed frown and walked past her. Hermione figured that one day he would get his priorities together.
Her boss stuck his head out of his office and invited her in.
She took a deep breath and followed him in.
The door automatically shut with a gentle click behind her.
"Take a seat. Would you like any—"
"No, I—" Hermione extended the envelope out to him and cursed her hand for shaking.
He looked at her curiously and then his face fell. "Don't tell me you're resigning."
"Well," she cleared her throat. "I thought it would only be best if I did, seeing … well, the news and—"
"Bugger the news. I lost one of my best researchers, I won't lose another, so no, I won't accept your resignation."
Hermione was stunned. Her voice was shaky yet strong when she said, "With all due respect, as important as our work is here and as much as I enjoy my work; I cannot do this any longer. I can't do the long, erratic hours. I—" she sat the letter on his clean desk. "I've ignored all my other priorities and I'm resigning to get them back in order. I just can't do that anymore. I'm sorry, but if you don't accept my resignation, I'll be forced to go over your head and I don't want to—"
"I think you misunderstand me," Hoggleton interrupted calmly. "I don't want to accept your resignation because I want to offer you a new position."
Hermione didn't return home. She left the Ministry out of her boss's private Floo and went to a nearby Muggle ice-cream parlour and enjoyed a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. She figured it was better than smoking—what she'd been tempted to do as soon as she'd Floo'd out—and it was loud there. She used the raucous laughter of children, their conversing parents, and the hum of the coolers to try and quiet the voices in her own head.
Too bad it didn't work.
Her boss's offer played over and over in her head—to the point where it made her restless and antsy. She quickly finished her ice-cream and found herself outside, digging into her pockets for a fag. But then Hermione remembered that she'd thrown them all away that morning. Dammit. Where was that Muggle nicotine gum Ginny had shoved into her hand before she left? She sat on a bench and dug in her beaded bag until she found it.
It took about twelve chews for Hermione to realise that quitting cigarettes was going to be a harder task than she'd originally anticipated. It took several more minutes and the disappearance of the slight tremor in her hand for her to admit that perhaps she did have a problem.
It seemed that she suddenly had more problems than solutions, now.
Hermione had been fully prepared to resign from her position and now … what in the hell was she supposed to do? Better yet, what was she supposed to say to Draco? Hermione walked past three Apparition points before she decided that the best thing to do was to do everything she'd never done while they had been married.
Meaning, go home and talk to him.
So, she walked to the next Apparition point and after a familiar tug, she appeared in the centre of her sitting room—her empty living room. Everything was as she left it. Letters were burning in the fire, a few owls were lounging on the coffee table, and—a soft chuckle broke in the silence. Hermione looked to her left where a red-faced Ginny and Blaise were sitting at the table sharing a bowl of—no doubt—Coco Rocks.
Ginny looked up and asked, "How did it go?"
"Umm … long story. Is Draco here?"
"In your room," Blaise replied, looking a little concerned. "With all the press everywhere, his boss sent him home for the day. And he came here after realising that there were reporters camped out in your front yard. Are you sure—"
"Yes, everything's fine. I just need to talk to him about something." Well, that certainly was different, Hermione thought as she walked back to her bedroom.
Draco was sitting on her bed, reading the Daily Prophet, and shaking his head. She couldn't think of the last time she'd seen him in Muggle clothes, but shrugged off all suspicion.
"Ridiculous, isn't it?"
He looked up, a little surprised, but then he smirked. "This entire day has been ridiculous. Have you seen all the reporters outside?"
"Yes," she shut the door behind her. "I hear they're at our house, too."
Draco gave a shrug as if they didn't matter and asked, "How did it go with your boss?"
"Right," she smoothed down her hair as best as she could. "We need to talk."
"I gave him my letter and he told me that he wasn't going to accept my resignation. He said that he'd lost one excellent researcher," at that, Draco failed miserably at not looking pompous, "and he said he didn't want to lose another. I told him that I would have to go over his head, and he offered me another position. Undersecretary … of the entire department."
Draco's eyes widened slightly in surprise.
"Yeah, I know. Not to mention, he said that I'm allowed to use as much of my paid vacation time as I need, which is about four month's worth. And the promotion means I get to handle more of the administrative tasks and my days of working the erratic schedule of a researcher are over. And I still get to oversee research experiments, especially my pet project to possibly extract information from the encephalons. He also said that I can form my own team to carry out the research on my project."
He remained pensive for a few minutes before he said, "So what did you say?"
"Nothing. He gave me the day to think it over. I—" she looked down, "thought I should discuss it with you first. You know, in the spirit of new beginnings, and all."
Draco stood up and folded the paper, but said nothing for a long time. And his silence worried her. When Draco dropped the newspaper on the bed, she crossed the room and stood in front of him. Hermione thought about saying more, but was unsure of what she could say to ease the tension. They weren't ready for the potential setback that her promotion could cause; not when things were still so delicate between them. She scolded herself for not thinking about that before she broached the topic.
With unease at the forefront of her mind, Hermione unconsciously leaned against him and sighed. But when he wrapped his arms around her waist, all doubt and self-restraint disappeared into nothing. Far from protesting, Hermione tightened her arms around his neck and closed her eyes, exhaling.
Then, he suddenly said, "I think you should accept the position. It's a good fit, I think."
She pulled back a bit, smiling and mentally planning out the letter to her boss. Of course, before she could take one step towards her desk, Draco pulled her back.
"Hold on the letter-planning until after lunch."
She made a face. "How did you—wait a second, lunch?"
"I was thinking that we should go to lunch at that shoddy little restaurant down the street that you love so much." Before she could extract her wand, he said, "We should walk."
Hermione's eyes narrowed in confusion. "Walk? Have you seen what's out there? We should definitely Apparate. They're very wizard-friendly and—"
Draco silenced her with a kiss.
It was strange how life had managed to completely bring her to her knees.
One week, Hermione was oblivious about her own faults and angry at Draco for all of his. And the next, clarity tackled her from behind and everything had changed. One moment, it had been about him, and the next, it became all about her. But, of course, that was life, right? April had been a hectic month full of rollercoaster emotions and — not to mention — intense and painful self-discoveries. And yet, even in the near silence of the little foyer, Hermione felt lost and out-of-control.
It was strange.
There had been moments while writing the resignation letter that she'd felt the urge to seek out the person she had been, even though that person was no more. She just felt as though, in the last few weeks, she'd been stripped of everything; not just the clothing she wore but the skin beneath it. And it felt odd; like she'd been fitted with new skin and clothes … and Hermione was left with the strongest urge to scratch because it just didn't feel right.
And that made her realise that, while she'd come so far, her journey had only just begun.
There were still unspoken thoughts and feelings between her and Draco. There were still things she needed to sort out within herself. There were things she still needed to think about. And there was still a life she needed to start living. Looking back on the last month, Hermione knew that she'd already learned a lot. Amongst the tears she'd cried and the pain she'd felt, there was so much good she'd experienced, too.
She was sure of it.
Though, the good had been hard to see through the haze of lingering guilt.
"Are you ready?" Draco asked.
Well, that was certainly a loaded question. Was she ready to go out there and face the media? Was she ready to start over? Was she ready to do things right this time? But more importantly, was she ready to forgive herself?
Tough questions, indeed. She'd done so much that was—
"Hermione?" When Draco squeezed her hand, she looked over at him and really began to understand something else.
It was going to take a long time, but she needed to let go … of everything. She needed to move forward because it was senseless to look back. She needed to stop thinking and obsessing over her mistakes because it was clear that she'd already been forgiven by the one person she had wronged—the one person who mattered.
Forgive herself? Move on? Look to the future? Could she really do all that? And just before Draco opened the front door and the flashbulbs erupted, Hermione squeezed his hand and answered all of those questions with a nervous yet confident:
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of JK Rowling. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Note: This is the end. Seven chapters, seven days in April, get it? I'd always planned to post the final chapter the day after posting chapter 6, simply because it happens the next day, but then I knew I had to post it because there was an alarming about of confusion at the end of chapter 6. I hope this last chapter cleared it all up.
As for the characterizations, I felt I had to make Draco more rational and patient because he was the first one to sorta step out of the workaholic mode and realizing what was more important to him. That's when the fighting started because Hermione couldn't understand the sudden interest in them being all public because he'd never expressed it before. Needless to say, Hermione was the straggler in all this. So if Draco seems to be OOC, there is a reason for it. And a pretty good one when you think about their age and the situation they're in. They're older...and more mature...he's not the same Draco that was at Hogwarts. Far from it. People do change.
But anyway, I wanted to end with them opening a door...ya know, symbolism and all that good stuff. And I wanted it to not be perfect with them at the end, for things to be a little shaky and unstable and unsure, but I also wanted there to be hope that they will work things through in time. And I really wanted Hermione to recognize the guilt she's been feeling and start to deal with it because her guilt really could mess up things in the future. Guilt is a very powerful emotion and I knew she needed to shed all of it and let go. And oh, I thought this end showed how much she's grown and changed since April 2nd (aka the beginning)...and it shows how she's willing to fight...and how she and Draco start to compromise. Because there was none of that before.
Anyway, there are a LOT of people I need to thank for making this story happen in...oh six weeks. Yes, that's how long it took me to write this entire piece. Six weeks. More like six weeks before the deadline. LOL! For all of you who don't know, I wrote this story for a fest called Hermionebigbang. All stories had to be Hermione-centric...and be over 20K. I'd first like to thank my beta, who got the chapters back to me SO fast. I'd like to thank my official cheerleader, paperflowered, and my unofficial cheerleaders, thebigdisaster, kate04, and somandalicious. I'd like to thank floorcoaster and my entire LJ f-list because you all listened to me bitch and moan about this story and cheered me on anyway. And I'd like to thank you all for reading and reviewing. Much love! Ta-ta. .. until my next story (hopefully it's freakin' Measure of a Man, dammit, I've been planning it for forever!)